Don't be fooled, even free-to-download apps come at a price, namely in the form of information. Data means money, power, and influence in the online world, especially data about you and the intimate details of your life.
Writing in an article for The Guardian, French journalist Judith Duportail reports how she asked the dating-app Tinder for a copy of her customer data using an EU data protection law. In response to the request, she received an 800-page report about herself, containing masses of intimate information about her geolocation, hobbies, music tastes, occupation, deleted Instagram photographs, “likes” on Facebook, and even her taste in men. It also kept a log of the 1,700 Tinder messages she had sent since 2013, which she described as a trip through all her “hopes, fears, sexual preferences, and deepest secrets.”
"Personal data is the fuel of the economy," Alessandro Acquisti, professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University, told the Guardian. "Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising."
In theory, companies also have to be open about the information they keep on us. Under the EU Data protection law, all European citizens can request a company to reveal their customer data with the aim of making tech giants more accountable and transparent.
However, retrieving the log of data tech companies have on you is not always as simple in practice. Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a data protection (DP) activist who helped Duportail with the report, explained on Twitter that the investigation “took real involvement of one DP activist (me) and a human rights lawyer for them to answer… 2 DPA complaints, dozens of emails, months of waiting, etc. Far far far from easy!” Duportail added: “I had two friends sending the same exact e-mail to request access but not identified as journalists on social medias, they never [got] a reply.”
The amount of information the world generates is growing year on year. In fact, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.